Sunday, July 24, 2016

Top 30 Outfielders not in the Hall of Fame

On a beautiful day in Cooperstown, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mika Piazza were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Both selections were well deserved. Junior received the highest voting percentage of all time (99.32%).  Next year, two outfielders will appear on the ballot for the first time - Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez.  Ramirez would be a lock but for his association with PEDs. Vlad isn't a lock but he'll get strong consideration (and if selected, will be the first in the Hall wearing an Angel's cap). In the meantime, let's look at the best outfielders who haven't gotten into the Hall (who are eligible - which why there's no Pete Rose or Joe Jackson).

30.     Dom Dimaggio

Dom Dimaggio was underrated even in his own day, overshadowed by both his famous brother and his teammate, Ted Williams. But outside of New York, he was regarded as the best defensive center fielder in the league and he was consistently among the league leaders in hits, runs and stolen bases. He lost three prime years to WWII but still finished his career with a .298 average and 1,680 hits.

29.      Curt Flood

Best known for challenging the reserve cause, Flood was the best defensive center fielder of his day, winning 7 gold gloves. He was a career .293 hitter and helped the Cardinals win 2 World Series, in 1964 and 1967. 

28.    Bob Johnson

An underrated left-fielder, Johnson was an 8-time all-star for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1930s, batting .296 and driving in over 1200 runs. 

27.      Amos Otis

In 1969, the Mets traded a young shortstop prospect named Amos Otis to the Royals for Joe Foy.  It’s one of the worst trades the Mets ever made – in a strong field. Otis went on to become an outstanding center fielder and key contributor for the excellent Kansas City Royals of the 1970s.  He won 3 Gold Gloves and totaled more than 2,000 hits, 1000 runs and 1,000 RBIs.   

26.      Albert Belle

Many baseball fans think that it was PEDs that kept Belle from any Hall of Fame consideration but Belle has never been linked to steroids. He was, however, linked to being an asshole. It’s a shame because on the field, Belle was a model of consistency, batting .295 and averaging 37 home runs and 120 RBIs between 1991 and 2000.

25.      Frank Howard

Enormous slugger starred for the Dodgers and Senators, totaling 382 home runs and over 1000 RBIs.   

24.     Rocky Colavito

A slugging right fielder for the Indians and Tigers, Colavito  had six 100 RBI seasons and three seasons of 40 or more homers. 

23.      Kenny Lofton

A terrific lead-off hitter and defensive center fielder, Lofton’s excellence was overshadowed by the home runs and steroids which came to dominate baseball in the late 1990s. Lofton was a 6-time all-star and a 4-time gold glove award winner who finished his career with nearly 2500 hits, over 1500 runs scored and 622 stolen bases. 

22.      Sherry Magee

A five-tool star from the dead ball era, Magee was a terrific left fielder for the Phillies, leading the league in RBIs four times.

21.      Bernie Williams

Perhaps the finest guitarist to ever play in the major leagues, Williams was an excellent center fielder and clutch hitter for a Yankee team that won 4 World Series. He’s baseball’s all-time leader in postseason games played, and RBIs. Only Manny Ramirez has more postseason home runs. 

20.      Wally Berger

A center fielder for the Boston Braves, Berger is best known for slugging 38 home runs as a rookie in 1930.  He was a career .300 hitter with 242 home runs – quite a few of them tape-measure shots. 

19.      Roger Maris

His career numbers wouldn’t merit consideration this high but his record-breaking 61 home run season and back-to-back MVP awards seem all the more remarkable over time.  Maris was also an excellent defender with one of the best throwing arms in the game. 

18.      Rusty Staub

Le Grand Orange holds the distinction of being the only player to get 500 hits with four separate clubs. Still a legend in Montreal and New York, he finished his career just shy of 3,000 hits.

 17.    Fred Lynn

Lynn found it hard to live up to his rookie season of 1975, when he won rookie of the year and MVP. He was still a 9-time All Star and terrific center fielder who put together a solid career.

16.      Cesar Cedeno

A five-tool talent and early star for the Astros, Cedeno won 5 Gold Gloves and posted three seasons of 20 home runs and 50 stolen bases.  

15.      Bobby Bonds

The poor man’s Barry Bonds, pops was a true power-speed threat who banged over 300 home runs, had 7 seasons of more than 40 stolen bases and played a terrific right field.  
14.      Reggie Smith

Switch-hitting slugger starred for the Red Sox, Cardinals and Dodgers was a 7-time All Star and retired behind Mickey Mantle on the all-time home run list for switch hitters. 

13.      Vada Pinson

One of the most underrated players of all time, Pinson was a terrific all-around player who starred for the Reds in the 1960s and amassed over 250 home runs, 1100 RBIs and 2700 hits.

 12.      Jim Edmonds

He probably deserved better than the 2.5% vote he received in 2016, his first and only time on the Baseball Writer’s ballot. A center-fielder who won 8 Gold Glove Awards, Edmonds batted .284 with 393 home runs, 1199 RBIs and 1251 runs scored.  

11.      Tony Oliva

A three-time batting champion, Oliva was a career .304 hitter with the Twins and an 8-time All Star.

10.      Dale Murphy

If not for a rapid decline at age 32, Murphy would be a lock.  A converted catcher, Murphy was a two-time MVP, an early member of the 30-30 club and a graceful center fielder who hit 398 home runs and over 1200 RBIs. 

 9.      Jim Wynn

The “toy cannon” was victimized by playing in pitcher’s park (Houston Astrodome) in pitcher’s era, but was still a terrific all-around center fielder. 

8.      Minnie Minosa

The “Cuban Comet” was a spark plug for the White Sox in the 1950s, batting .298 with over 1000 runs and 1000 RBIs.  

7.      Dave Parker

For a while, Parker was probably the best player in baseball.  The National League MVP in 1978, the Cobra was one first player paid a million dollars per year and also one of the first mixed up in cocaine. But he was fearsome hitter, a 7-time all-star who had one of baseball's best throwing arms.    

6.      Sammy Sosa

Eventually, players linked to steroids will get inducted into the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were so good when they weren’t cheating, it seems likely that their transgressions may one day be overlooked. That is unlikely to be the case with Sosa, whose case for the Hall rests on an incredible 5 year run when he batted .306 and averaged 58 homre runs and 141 RBIs. Knowing that he tested positive the very next year, who's going to believe that he wasn't juiced during that entire time period?

5.      Gary Sheffield

Interesting career. A devastating hitter who bounced around the league, Sheffield was, it needs to be said, something of a defensive liability. But he’s just the 13th player in baseball history with 500 home runs, 1600 RBIs and 1600 runs scored.  

4.      Dwight Evans

When I was a kid, it was a great argument – whether Dave Parker or Dwight Evans (or Dave Winfield) had the best throwing arm from right field. (But don’t forget Ellis Valentine.)  Of the bunch, it was Evans who had the most outfield assists.  He was a rock of consistency for the Sox and hit 385 home runs and had nearly 2500 hits. 

3.      Larry Walker

In his 6th year of eligibility, Walker received only 15% of the vote, which does not bode well for his chances of making the Hall. He’s being punished for: 1) playing in the steroid era and 2) playing in hitter-friendly Coors field (He did bat .348 at Coors and only .278 on the road).  But Walker was a true five-tool player who did everything well and won 7 Gold Gloves.  His only weakness was staying healthy. 

2.      Tim Raines

Raines was just one of many players caught up with cocaine (which, we should remember, is not a performance enhancing drug).  But his association with the drug is especially strong because of the vivid anecdote of how he slid head first to avoid breaking the vials of cocaine he kept in the back pocket of his uniform pants. What gets forgotten is how good he was. There’s the 2600 hits, the .385 career on-base percentage and the 808 stolen bases (4th best of all time).  And his stolen base percentage (85%) was better than Rickey Henderson’s and much better than Lou Brock’s.

1.      Barry Bonds

The best, by far.      

Honorable Mention:  Joe Carter, Jack Clark, Jose Cruz, Charlie Keller, Bobby Murcer, Al Oliver, Bobby Veach

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Winter Is Coming

It was a tough week for England.

First, the UK voted to leave the European Union, a decision that has left many people scratching their heads as the British economy tanks and the pound continues to nosedive into free fall. “But we’ve taken our country back!” say the supporters of Brexit jubilantly. At least the ones without buyer’s remorse. It’s not clear what “taking our country back” means since the UK would be no more sovereign as non-member state than it is presently as member of the EU. And the promise made by supporters of Brexit, that the money going to the EU can instead go to national healthcare has been exposed as a lie. Some have suggested that breaking away from the EU will mean that the UK can better control its border though just how or why is unclear. The UK is not part of the Schengen Area, meaning the British government (not the EU) already has full control over the UK’s borders. Many have explained the vote as nothing less than the triumph of nativist, xenophobic, nationalist hysteria spread about by ambitious demagogues. Imagine that. Bewildered Americans should not be too smug.  

            Then things got even worse. England’s 2-1 loss to Iceland in the Round of 16 of the Euros is one of the biggest upsets in European soccer history. It's true that England has in recent years been a bit delusional about their soccer ambitions. And yes, anyone who watched the qualifying campaign and Group matches would have noticed that Iceland is for real and that England’s play has been a bit shaky. Still, for a traditional powerhouse like England to lose to a tiny island nation with a population half the size of Vermont is stunning. (Supposedly, 10% of all Icelanders are in France watching the tournament.) England hasn’t endured this kind of humiliation by Scandinavians since Torkfell the Tall sacked Canterbury in 1012.

Many Americans know Iceland only as the place where Game of Thrones films the scenes north of the Wall. (It's the primitive land of endless winter, where the White Walkers dwell, threatening to breach the Wall with an army of the dead. The scenery is beautiful and tourism in Iceland is booming.)  But the Brits have tussled with Iceland before. Beginning in the 1950s the UK and Iceland clashed over fishing rights in a series of confrontations known as the Cod Wars. It may have been the closest two NATO nations have ever come to a shooting war. The NATO-negotiated settlement largely favored Iceland. England’s fishing industry has been in decline ever since.

And Iceland isn’t finished. On Sunday, Iceland plays France in the Quarterfinals in the Stade de France, just north of Paris. The stadium is less than two miles from the medieval Basilica of Saint Denis where France buried its kings for centuries. France is the host country of Euro 2016 and Les Blues, having come from behind to beat Ireland 2-1, will like their chances against Iceland. They should be wary. The French were also overconfident in 845 when Viking ships ran up the Seine and sacked Paris.

Take nothing for granted. 


Monday, March 14, 2016

Top 10 Myths About Donald Trump

“I play to people’s fantasies” - Donald Trump

“The truth is that men are tired of liberty” – Benito Mussolini

“Just remember  It’s not a lie…if you believe it”   - George Costanza 

Poor Donald Trump. The media and political establishment are being so unfair to him because he's politically incorrect and dares to challenge a corrupt establishment with new ideas, real leadership and bold vision. That's bullshit of course. And even though so much has already been said about Donald Trump, America's favorite con artist, demagogue and reality game show host, it's still quite astonishing how much nonsense is still out there.  

And so here are 10 myths about Donald Trump:

1.  Donald Trump was opposed to the Iraq War from the beginning.  

Donald Trump likes to tell people that he was opposed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  It's a line that serves two purposes.  It distinguishes him from the other Republican candidates (and from Hillary Clinton)  and it also gives the impression that he’s not just some dipshit celebrity but rather, someone capable of making sound judgments on foreign policy.  It’s also a lie. The Iraq war began on March 20, 2003 and had been the subject of lively public debate throughout the previous year. But during the run up to the war, when Trump appeared on the Howard Stern show, he was asked if he supported the Iraq war. “Yeah, I guess so,” said Trump.  His first statement that he was against the war was made in July of 2014 more than a year after the invasion.  A month earlier, in June of 2004, CNN announced that a major Gallup poll showed that 54% of Americans believed the invasion of Iraq was a mistake.  Got that?  One month after knowing that most Americans were against the war, Donald Trump took a moment from The Apprentice to say that he was against it too. How insightful!

2.  Trump has renounced racism and bigotry.   

By now, we've all heard about the sordid episode in which Donald Trump lied through his teeth, telling  the American public that he doesn't know anything about David Duke, the former KKK Grand Wizard who came out in favor of Trump.  When pressed the following day, Trump blamed the lie on a faulty earpiece - an excuse which made absolutely no sense.  Trump also said "I disavowed David Duke a day before at a major press conference and I'm saying to myself how  many times to I have to continue to disavow people."

Only Trump did not disavow David Duke the day before - instead he played dumb - and he waited several more days before disavowing the Ku Klux Klan at a March 3rd Republican debate.  "I totally disavow the KKK", said Trump sounding more annoyed than convincing. But he couldn't leave it alone and he went on to say that he had been disavowing Duke and the KKK for two weeks - another demonstrable lie.  It's not an accident that Trump waited until after Super Tuesday for this tepid disavowal:  White nationalists and bigots are a key part of Trump's base.

No person, not even Trump, should be responsible for the sins of his father. But given Fred Trump's  history as a racist landlord, Donald's own long track record of race episodes becomes all the more unsettling.  In 1927, Fred Trump, then 21 years old, was arrested in Queens when a Ku Klux Klan demonstration turned violent.  (Some things don't change).  Now, of course, that's not necessarily evidence that Donald's Daddy was a KKK member - but rather than distance himself from the KKK or condemn what that organization actually represented, Donald's defensiveness about his father's arrest was almost comical.  "It never happened, he wasn't there and besides, he wasn't charged with any crime" - that's almost verbatim.    

3.  Donald Trump's campaign is self-funded.

John Oliver has done a nice job exposing this particular fib.  Trump's website asks for donations, he has received millions in donations, he actually has the support of a Super PAC and even his "self-funding" is borrowed money. It's true that he's less dependent on outside donations than other candidates but it's curious that this financial "independence" should be seen as so appealing. For decades Trump has been an ambitious political operator who brazenly boasts about buying politicians for influence. And now, we're supposed be impressed that he's so rich that he isn't beholden to special interests? Trump is a special interest.   

4.  Mexico, China and Japan are killing us in trade.

Trump likes to say: "America doesn't win anymore." Really?  Somebody should let Mexico, China and Japan know.  Our economy is far stronger than theirs. The game Trump is playing is pretending that a trade deficit means that we are "losing" economically but that's nonsense.  Running a trade deficit (which we've done since the 1970s) does not actually mean that you're losing. It's not an accident that no country has rebounded from the recession of 2007-08 faster or stronger than the U.S.  

5.  Donald Trump supports the military and our veterans.  

Trump is hardly the only politician of his generation to skip the Vietnam War - he received 4 medical deferments for alleged bone spurs that miraculously went away just after the war ended.  But few draft-dodging politicians have been so clueless about, or contemptuous of military service - whether comparing his sexual escapades to military combat or by insulting the sacrifice of  POWs.  And no, Mr. Trump, spending 8th grade in a military school where they force you to make your bed is nothing like the experience of those men and women who actually serve in the armed forces   

6.  Donald Trump is a friend to the Jews.  

It's no surprise that the most virulent anti-Semites - from the KKK to Louis Farrakhan - are vocal Trump supporters. What is a bit more surprising is the ugliness of Trump's own remarks about Jews. According to the former president of one his casinos, Trump once said "the only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day."  Then there was his foray into stereotyping at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum, "I don't want your money so therefore, you're probably not going to support me."  Now this kind of thing might be dismissed as playful if it was your friend telling jokes, but context matters.  This is not Don Rickles - it's Donald Trump and he's got a long and ugly history.

The Anti-defamation League wasn't terribly upset by those remarks but the hate-watchdogs were less sanguine when Trump extracted a chilling fascist-style loyalty oath from his supporters. 

Trump also flirts with conspiracy nuts like the 9/11-Truthers who believe that that the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center was an inside job.  Trump promised that if he's elected "you will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center."  Trump was referring to classified portions of the official 9/11 report and the suggestion is that Bush and/or the Saudis were complicit and knew about the attack in advance.  Of course, one can be a conspiracy nut without being an anti-Semite but the historical correlation between the two will not bring comfort to American Jews. 

7.  Trump has the courage to be politically incorrect.

By now it should be obvious that "political correctness" is in the eye of the beholder. (Why didn't Trump "tell it like it is" and call out the Bundy militia in Oregon for leading an armed insurrection against the United States?  Because it wouldn't have been "politically correct" for him to do so. And because those are his supporters.) But Trump is often praised for daring to be "politically incorrect" when he calls out Islam as a threat to the United States. Never mind that the Pentagon has blasted Trump's proposal for banning Muslims from entering the U.S. as a gift to ISIS and a threat to national security.  When did Trump start pretending to be such a tough guy? Quite recently, it turns out. Just last year, when a bunch of activists threatened to draw pictures of Mohammed, Trump begged them to knock it off.  Why would you want to get those Muslims upset? They get so very angry.  Trump wasn't just being politically correct. He was capitulating to the jihadists.  He was a weak-kneed appeaser until he saw an opportunity for himself by singing a different tune.  

Now, Donald Trump laments that "political correctness" is keeping protesters and dissenters from being physically beaten - although he's encouraging his supporters to do so anyway.  How brave of him. Thanks largely to Trump, the term "politically incorrect" is now just a license for acting like an asshole. 

8.  Trump is like Ronald Reagan.   

Because Trump is hailed by his supporters as a Republican political savior, there are the inevitable comparisons to Ronald Reagan. Reagan, we are reminded, was also a political "outsider" and a former liberal whose views shifted rightward over time. (And, he's our only divorced President - naturally the twice-divorced Trump wants to top him.) Regardless of how you feel about Reagan or the hagiography that elevated him to sainthood, it's a silly comparison. Unlike Trump, Reagan had core convictions and his political views were shaped by decades of political experience and public service.  Reagan wasn't a crude billionaire game show host who suddenly decided to run for President. In temperament, they could not be more different.  Reagan was well-mannered and polite but politically loyal, popularizing an 11th commandment, "thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow republican." Trump, ever boorish and insulting, never got the memo.  Reagan and Trump may have both been celebrity entertainers before entering politics, but Reagan's supporters and detractors agree - he had character. Trump IS a character - a clownish, thin-skinned, narcissistic bully with no moral compass and no core beliefs beyond himself and his will to power.

Ironically, Trump thought that Reagan himself was nothing but a masterful salesman.  Trump's slogan "make America great again" was stolen directly from Reagan.  And in the Art of the Deal, the 2nd greatest book of all time (after the bible, according to Trump), he says that Reagan was someone who could "con people" but who couldn't "deliver the goods." Sound familiar? 

9.  The media is against Donald Trump.

This might the greatest myth of them all. Trump may be an ignoramus when it comes to the issues, but he is a brilliant marketer who plays the media like a fiddle.  Oh sure he whines about how mean they all are to him, but his war against the media is just part of his shtick. He bullies them as a way of "working the refs".  And it works.  The media enables and even coddles Trump - they give him a legitimacy that he's never earned and they give him exactly what he craves most:  attention. Watch how Trump and Morning Joe essentially strike that very bargain - the "journalists" agree to go easy on Trump and he gets them ratings.  They're entertainers too.  As Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS News admitted, Trump's rise "may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS!" 

10. Donald Trump is taking on the establishment.  

Here's yet another example of the media enabling Trump by failing to challenge his core narrative - that he is somehow taking on the "establishment." It's been repeated so often that it's almost never questioned.  But Trump is only challenging the "establishment" if we define the establishment very narrowly to mean the political apparatus that is the Republican Party.  But if we are referring more broadly to the political-media establishment, Trump can hardly be said to be taking on the establishment.  Trump IS the establishment.  He's a savvy political operator and media mogul who's worked the political system for decades.  He's a consummate insider masquerading as an outsider.  It's a funny thing.  He's supposed to be the anti-establishment candidate and yet he's proposed no reforms, laws or policies to fix our broken system.  He has nothing to offer - only idle boasts that he's smarter, tougher, richer, more politically incorrect and more awesome than the elected officials currently in Washington DC.  But by now, it ought to be obvious - Donald Trump has never stood for anything other than Donald Trump. 

Well, as they used to say in the Roman Republic before it fell:  Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The 50 Best Kinks Songs

The Kinks might be the most under-appreciated band in rock & roll history. And I'm guilty of overlooking them too. Sure, I had always enjoyed the Kinks but when I was growing up the classic rock cannon had been settled. The Mount Rushmore of British bands consisted of The Beatles, the Stones, the Who and Zeppelin. The Kinks, while perfectly enjoyable, seemed to occupy a lower rung as if their role in rock history was to serve as musical bridge between the British Invasion and Punk Rock – from the Animals to the Jam. This is all wrong.

As a teenager, I owned a single Kink’s record, the live album, One for the Road.  I played it often. It’s not a bad record but, in a way, it was the wrong album to own. It captures the Kinks as a perfectly adequate arena rock band and about half the songs are from Low Budget, a perfectly adequate album. But the live album features only three songs from the Kink’s richest and most fruitful period – the six brilliant albums from Face to Face in 1966 through Muswell Hillbillies in 1971. Sure, it’s nice that the Kinks were able to reinvent themselves and survive the 1970s playing FM radio-friendly arena rock. But what made the Kinks great wasn’t the fist-pumping shout-alongs in hockey arenas, it was their song craft, their pop sensibilities, their social insight, their fragility and, to quote Pete Townshend, Ray Davies’ “gobsmacking genius.” Much of that gets lost on the live album.

But the Kinks were not dedicated followers of fashion. They didn’t care about the counter-culture. They didn’t play Woodstock or write about drugs or sing protest anthems. They sang about the world they knew. They didn’t conquer America and they weren’t conquered by it. Even though they were strongly influenced by American rhythm and blues (especially in the early years) and Ray Davies has lived in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans, his world view has always remained distinctly English.  And therein lies the genius of the Kinks. The best writers rarely set out to proclaim great truths – they describe the world around them by observing the particular.  And when they do it well – especially within 3 minutes of a brilliant pop song - they create entire worlds for the listener. Few have done it better than the Kinks.

Here are my top 50 favorite Kinks songs:

50.  Jukebox Music (Sleepwalker)

      With Sleepwalker, the Kinks abandoned their theatrical ambitions of the early 1970s and returned to a straight-forward rock sound. It came together nicely on” Jukebox Music” a song about a fan who believes the songs she hears on the jukebox are real. Well, aren’t they?

     49.  Nothing in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl (Kinda Kinks)

     This haunting blues song was used to great effect by Wes Anderson in Rushmore.

      48.  Powerman (Lola versus Powerman)

The Kinks take their shot at the music industry in this riff-driven number. Another favorite of Wes Anderson. But what a dreadful album title. The full name: Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part 1.  Seriously? 

47.  Father Christmas (Come Dancing with the Kinks)

       One of the best of the contemporary Christmas songs. The Kinks introduce class consciousness and wicked humor in a now holiday classic about a store Santa Claus who is mugged for cash.

       46.  Some Mother's Son  (Arthur)

One of the Kink’s defining albums, Arthur is a concept album (or rock opera, if you prefer) about  a post-war England that had left its working class behind. The title character, based on Ray Davies brother-in-law, is a carpet layer who made the sacrifices of war demanded by his beloved empire, endured post-war austerity and is searching for the better life. An album about empire requires an anti-war song and "Some Mother's Son" delivers - it's as powerful an anti-war song as you'll ever hear. I don’t know if Bruce Springsteen listened to Arthur. But on Born in the USA, he asks the very same questions. What happened to the promise of my country? What happened to my birthright?

 45.  Catch Me Now I’m Falling (Low Budget)

Ray Davies didn’t limit his “decline and fall” narrative to the UK. On Low Budget, the Kinks recession rocker album, Ray turns his attention to the economic decline of the U.S. with “Catch Me Now I’m Falling.” (Though he does steal the guitar riff form the Stones “Jumpin’ Jack Flash").
      44.  See My Friends (Kinkdom)

      Ray’s psychedelic tribute to his older sister who died of a heart condition, the song is remarkable for its use of Indian music in 1965 – a full 6 months before the Beatles released Rubber Soul.

43.  Johnny Thunder (The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society)

From the Kink’s finest album, here’s a song about the rebel in a static English world of conformity.  The catchy chorus may have influenced Pete Townshend’s writing of Tommy.  (Just listen to the la-la-la-la part).
      42.  Rock & Roll Fantasy (Misfits)

Ray Davies reflects on the relationship between fan and artist, observing that both may be living on the edge of reality. This was written the week after Elvis died and became a minor hit for the Kinks in their arena rock years.    

41.  Something Better Beginning (Kinda Kinks)
An early pop gem from the Kink’s second album.

40.  Autumn Almanac (The Kink Kronikles)

A terrific pop composition, released as a single in 1967, but far too "English" to become a hit in the U.S.

39.  God’s Children (Percy)

A lovely song - the standout track from a 1971 British comedy film.

 38.  Come Dancing (State of Confusion)

The Kink’s biggest hit of the 1980s featured a new keyboard sound, but a familiar Ray Davies theme – nostalgia

37.  Do You Remember Walter  (The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society)

Nostalgia really is Ray Davies principal obsession. True nostalgia runs much deeper than sentiment. According to New York writer Pete Hamill, nostalgia "involves an almost fatalistic acceptance of the permanent presence of loss." On Village Green, Davies writes about a particular English world that has vanished.

36.  Death of a Clown (Something Else by the Kinks)

With all due respect to the Gallagher boys of Oasis (or for that matter the Everly Brothers), rock and roll’s most enduring sibling rivalry belongs to the Davies brothers. But Dave was more than just the hard-partying guitarist who invented power chords. Here, you can hear the Bob Dylan influence.

35.  David Watts (Something Else by the Kinks)

A sing-along mod classic about that oh so perfect man.

34.  Big Sky (The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society)

Along with the cup of tea, the croquet lawns and quiet pleasures of village life, Davies also muses on existential matters.

33.  Misfits (Misfits)

A poignant call to the outsider in all of us.

32.  Living on a Thin Line (Word of Mouth)

A Dave Davies number and possibly the best of the later Kinks songs.  It's a variation on brother Ray's familiar theme - the lost nation.  Dark and brooding, it worked well in The Sopranos.

31.  Sweet Lady Genevieve (Preservation Act 1) 

One of the most underrated Kink’s songs and the highlight of Ray Davies 1973 rock opera.

30.  Picture Book (The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society)

Sadly, “Picture Book” is probably best known in the U.S. for providing the soundtrack to a Hewlett Packard commercial. 

29.  Set Me Free (Kinda Kinks)

Released as a single in 1965, "Set Me Free" was a Beatles-influenced hit with a great guitar sound.

28.  20th Century Man (Muswell Hillbillies)

Another familiar theme for Ray Davies: the individual vs. society the struggle with modernity, out of place and out of time.

27.  Dedicated Follower of Fashion (The Kink Kontroversy)

Ray Davies gift of satire is on full display as he mocks the fashionistas of the swinging sixties.

26.  Animal Farm (The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society)

Another great track about the longing for a simpler pastoral life. The title is fitting in another respect. I’d say that Ray Davies and George Orwell were two of the 20th century’s most important writers working in the English language.

25.  Tired of Waiting For You (Kinda Kinks)

An early hit that combined Dave’s distorted guitar sound with Ray’s reflective and evolving songwriting.

24.  Better Things (Give the People What they Want)

A bit on the sentimental side, but the propulsive piano, the jangly guitar and Ray’s delivery make it work beautifully.

23.  Stop Your Sobbing (Kinks)

The Pretenders knew what they were doing when they recorded this pop nugget and made it their first single.

22.  Well Respected Man (Kinkdom)

By introducing class consciousness and drawing on the British music hall tradition, the Kinks made it evident early on that they were not just another British invasion band.     

21.  Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues (Muswell Hillbillies)

Muswell Hillbillies is another underrated album and something of a paradox. The album examines the changes facing a North London working class neighborhood but it’s also the Kink’s most American album, as heard in the New Orleans style brass backing on this delightful track. 

20.  Celluloid Heroes (Everybody’s in Show-Biz)

Ray moved to Lost Angeles in 1972 and on this lovely ballad he muses on the pursuit of fame.  

19.  Star Struck (The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society)

The closest thing to a hit single off of Village Green Preservation Society, "Star Struck" is a catchy number on an album that, inexplicably, went straight to the bottom of the charts. 

18.  Get Back in Line (Lola versus Powerman)

Ray’s ode to the Working Man features one of his loveliest melodies with a great blend of hazy guitars, organ and harmonies. 

17.  I’m Not Like Everybody Else (The Great Lost Kinks Album)

With the distorted guitar anarchy of “You Really Got Me”, the Kinks pioneered a punk sound.  With “I’m not Like Everybody Else,” they pioneered punk attitude.  

16.  Where Have All the Good Times Gone (The Kink Kontroversy)

It says a lot about Ray Davies that he would write “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” at the tender age of 21.  

15.  This Time Tomorrow (Lola versus Powerman)

Nice job, Wes Anderson.  One the most memorable scenes of Darjeeling Limited, shows Adrien Brody in slow motion trying to catch the train to the soundtrack of this introspective, beautifully ephemeral song.

14.  Sunny Afternoon (Face to Face)

Ray Davies ascended to new heights as a songwriter with “Sunny Afternoon,” a musical hall-inspired number with a lovely melody, a memorable descending base line and witty social observation.  

13.  Til the End of the Day (The Kink Kontroversy)

Truly a band ahead of their time - this early hit combined elements of punk music and power-pop.

12.  Apeman  (Lola versus Powerman)

It wasn’t the first time that Ray Davies would sing about his disenchantment with modern life and it wouldn’t be his last.  But “Apeman” was one of his best and catchiest.

11.  Victoria (Arthur)

The Kinks kick off Arthur with this send-off to the Queen of Pax Britannica.  One mark of Davies excellence as a songwriter is his embrace of paradox -  he can lament the loss of the same things he lampoons.   

10.  Days (The Kink Kronikles)

An evocative pop gem that was originally released as a single in 1968.

9.  Dead End Street (The Kink Kronikles)

Class consciousness merges with sophisticated pop. Bleak and catchy at the same time, "Dead End Street" might have the best trombone in rock & roll history.  Klassic.   

8.  All Day and All of the Night (Kinks-Size)

Yes, it’s just “You Really Got Me” with a slight variation of the guitar riff. It's still awesome.  The Stones did a similar thing. They took the guitar part from their first big hit, “Satisfaction” and reworked the riff to come up with “Jumping Jack Flash.”

7.  Shangri-La (Arthur)

The standout-track on Arthur makes the emptiness of suburban contentment a masterpiece.   

6.  This is Where I Belong (The Kink Kronikles)

For me, this evocative power-pop love song has a transcendent and timeless quality.  For a treat, check out the Frank Black version

5.   The Village Green Preservation Society (The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society)

Why weren’t the Kinks bigger?  In 1968, while the Beatles were recording the White Album, the Stones were conquering America, the Who were inventing rock opera, and Jimi Hendrix was blowing people’s minds, the Kinks seemed to miss the late 1960s entirely. Woodstock?  Where’s that?  The Kinks were in England preserving custard pie, little shops, china cups and virginity. And it was brilliant.   

4.   Lola (Lola versus Powerman)

The iconic song that exposed me to the Kinks.  And yes, it has over-saturated the airwaves for years.  But it remains a perfect pop composition.

3.  Strangers (Lola versus Powerman)

Dave Davies at his best. There are two kinds of people in the world: 1) Those who get a bit choked up when they hear “Strangers” and, 2) heartless bastards.

2.  You Really Got Me (Kinks)

Rolling Stone magazine called the riff from "Satisfaction" the "rock & roll equivalent of the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth”.  I disagree.  That honor belongs to “You Really Got Me,” which exploded onto the airwaves a year earlier.  When had pop music ever heard a guitar riff that dirty and powerful? 

1.  Waterloo Sunset (Something Else by the Kinks)

I didn’t know “Waterloo Sunset” for many years - it wasn’t a staple of the rock radio I grew up with.  But once I heard it, I could not ever get it out of my head. Lyrically, it’s quintessential Ray Davies – the outsider who is inside, isolated and living in his head while taking in the bustling urban world around him. Musically, it’s a revelation.  Like the best art, it creates a feeling, colors and emotions that can’t really be explained or reduced to the song’s individual elements. A gorgeous symphony in three minutes.